Higher education split over benefit of online courses for students

Despite controversies concerning the motives on online education companies, Cornell professors say online courses can be effective source of learning for students, The Cornell Daily Sun reports.

Recent studies by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education have revealed that much of the motivation behind companies such as Udacity, Coursera and EdX moving toward online education and massive open online courses is not due to efficacy or increased accessibility to students, but rather enormous profitability.

Prof. Beth Livingston, industrial and labor relations, said that while initial efforts toward online courses did not always have students’ best interests in mind, some online education programs still offer benefits to some students.

“Much of the early drive toward online education was likely fueled by for-profit companies looking to provide cheap courses … without much care for actual student learning,” Livingston said.

In 2012, the online education sector received investments of $1.1 billion, with 324 tech companies earning $1.43 billion in profits during a 12-month period, according to the Huffington Post.

A report released in 2012 by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) later revealed that these private, for-profit online higher education programs “spent more on advertising and recruitment than on instruction.”

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